Through leases with Texas landowners, angler access has now been expanded along reaches of the Brazos, Colorado, Guadalupe, Llano, Neches, San Marcos and South Llano rivers. Three more leases are set to begin on the Colorado, Nueces and Sabine rivers this summer.
These angler access improvements are funded primarily through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program. This federal grant program offers funding to state and tribal governments to encourage public recreation on privately held land.
These leased access areas, in most cases, are quite different from riverside parks. They tend to have few, if any, staff on hand. Amenities such as restrooms and running water may or may not be available. Phone reception could be spotty. Some sites require advance reservations to avoid overcrowding, or to supply visitors with the code that opens a gate.
Don’t expect a groomed landscape. In fact, TPWD’s river access team encourages landowners to leave banks in a fairly natural state.
”These leases are intended to offer a serene, wilderness experience and a high-quality fishing opportunity on Texas’ scenic, wild and storied rivers,” said Timothy Birdsong, Habitat Conservation Chief for TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division.
By law, all navigable streams are public waterways, open to citizens who want to swim, wade, boat and (with the appropriate license) fish. In practice, much of that water is inaccessible to the general public because the vast majority of adjacent land is privately owned. Leased access is one of the tools TPWD is using to improve fishing access on our state’s rivers, according to Birdsong. It’s a win/win scenario, providing income for rural landowners and opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts who aren’t lucky enough to possess their own spreads.
The typical lease agreement allows fishing from the bank and launching of kayaks and canoes. Other activities, such as camping, are allowed at some sites but not all. Although the program pays owners for public use, it’s still private land. Visitors are, in a sense, guests, and hosts are allowed to make some rules.
If you’d like to explore these leases and plan your visit, details are available on the TPWD website at tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/recreational/rivers/.